Thursday 20 June 2013

Alpentour Packing

In a bizarre, self-referential way, writing about packing for a stage race is very much like the activity itself- it can be difficult know where to begin! I’ve done a few of these crazy European raids now, snatched between busy times at work, and I still feel like a beginner. So, where to begin?
Well, with the advent of cheap flights, there’s an obvious enemy to fight. No, not the grumpy man outsize luggage dealing with his tenth bike bag plastered in “Precious Cargo” stickers, but the weight of the bag itself. Most low-cost airlines limit you to “sports equipment” weighing a maximum of 23kg – possibly a little over-generous for a pair of skis, or even a set of golf clubs, but an altogether thornier problem for cyclists. Assuming you’ve done all that you can to minimise the weight of your bike (and if you haven’t i can send you far along the path to weight-weeniedom with a single weblink ) then it’s all about being smart in packing what you need.

I generally strip my bike a couple of days before the flight to give me plenty of time to do the shuffle onto the bathroom scales with an oversize piece of luggage, curse, take out something that was “vital” five minutes ago, repeat cycle until i reach the magic number. The toolkit generally being in disarray (the dangers of cohabiting and sharing a single toolkit – “I can’t find X, YOU must have done something with it!”), i plonk all the tools i have used to deconstruct to one side to go in with the bike. Cassettes (esp the bigger 36t ones, which can be easily bent – best not to ask how!), rotors, quick releases, pedals all stripped, it’s then time to bubble wrap the key bits – big ring, controls, wheel axles (so they don’t damage your frame). Then everything goes into the bike bag – i use a soft-sided one in the vague hope that baggage handlers will be more careful with it, and again to save weight.

Then it’s time to think about spares. I’m currently mid-pack for the AlpenTour, and it’s no secret, with snow clearly visible on the Planai webcams, it’s likely to be cold and wet. Spare snakeskin Schwalbe Nobby Nic is ready to go – anything easy to tubeless, hard to puncture is always a good mixture for long races, where the last thing you want to have to do is fix a flat when cold! Spare bottle cage is a good idea (stage racing can be rough on them – big bottles + rough trails = limited lifespan!), likewise a patch kit for tubes just in case you do flat more than once on the same wheel. I also take a spare rotor, chainrings, cassette, bolts various, brake pads, gear inner, chain & quicklink (these are great taped to your top tube with a bit of electrical tape!)

For maintenance of body, it’s worth taking energy food you’re used to (i swear by Torq, but experiment and try what works). Take two more pieces of food (energy gel/bar) for each stage than you think you might need, you can really only live to regret going alpine style, especially in a stage race! Recovery drink is also a good idea, try to get it in you within 30 mins of finishing the stage. Finally, there are the unfortunate realities of racing of many days. With every extra day, the chances you’ll have to deal with something unexpected increase, be that a crash, an overuse injury or just a saddle sore. It’s worth taking a road rash kit (hydrocolloid dressings are amazing things, and don’t worry, they’re supposed to smell!), some anti-inflammatories (e.g. ibuprofen, but try not to use them unless you absolutely have to, as they’re quite bad for harming your recovery) and sudocreme for saddle sores.
Finally, pack a good book and a sense of humour. Stage races are all about seeing amazing places, meeting cool people and having fun – some of the best memories you’ll take away will be sitting on a terrace somewhere with a huge ice cream and a bunch of new friends. Oh, and don’t forget your passport...

A handy guide to cheering

It does rather depend on where in the world you are. Head to the cycling heartlands of Italy, Spain, Belgium & France, and increasingly Germany & Austria, and you can guarantee that any bike race that goes through a town will be greeted with encouragement of some description. Local kids, crudely painted (and sometimes crudely designed!) banners, food, water, and if you're very lucky maybe even an oompah band. Go to the hinterlands of the UK, or northern Europe where bikes are primarily a means of transport and not a vocation, and you may very well only be welcomed by local vagrants asking "how much is your bike worth, mate?". With this in mind, I thought I'd write a handy guide for would-be spectators.

How to pick your spot.
Bike races are best watched on TV - I'm afraid this is empirical fact; if you want to know what is going on in a race, you're much better off huddling up on the sofa with a cup of tea than you are braving the sun or rain to watch by the side of the route. However, what you miss by your frankly shocking lack of committment is the experience of a passing race. For a big road race, it will start with a publicity caravan, more free crap than you can shake a stick at, a series of rolling adverts on wheels, and then finally a series of police cars and motorbike outriders before finally you catch a brief glimpse of the patchwork quilt of multicoloured jerseys before the race is gone, out of sight like a multicoloured rumbling, rattling cloud.  If you want to see the riders for the maximum possible time, pick somewhere where the course goes steeply uphill, especially in a multi-lap race, as this will give you a great vantage to watch the race develop. Failing that, try to find some friendly locals who own a vineyard/brewery... Oh, and don't forget a waterproof!

How to encourage riders
Never, never, NEVER utter the dreaded words "dig in". Say what you like, give riders time gaps to the next person on the course, tell them they look good, or smooth, or fast. Offer them handy hints of how you think they can make up time or places. Make them laugh and smile; most bike riders are pretty humble and have a good sense of fun, even when racing.  But just saying "dig in" is the lazy spectator's cover-all. I have often wondered, what does it even mean? What am i supposed to be digging into? My suitcase of courage? Please...! A few wise words, or a good juicy pun chalked on the road shows that you care!

How not to encourage riders
You're standing by the side of a climb. A bunch of totally knackered riders are pushing the pedals as hard as they can to ride past at a decent lick. For some reason, especially if you're Spanish, the thought occurs "I know, i'll run alongside them". Just don't even think about it! For one thing, you should be holding a glass of wine, and spilling it would be a sin. Secondly, if you can run easily alongside, it's going to be utterly crushing for the poor sods who're trying as hard as they can, and if you can't you could lose your footing and end up with tyre marks in your face... Some people like to have water poured on them when it's really hot, others not so much, so don't forget to ask. As an aside, probably one of the most pleasant experiences of my cycling life was being soaked by an Italian Nonna somewhere in the Dolomites in 42o heat, when i thought spontaneous combustion was imminent. I did get sunburn because it washed off the suncream though!
Finally, don't push people, it doesn't really help, and it can get us disqualified! Keep it dignified, and there'll be no need for anyone to get Hinault on your ass...

What you can hope to get out of it
If you're watching a road race, you'll see the whole thing pass in about 20 seconds flat, from the lead car to the last guy on the road, unless you're in the Alps and on the last climb of the day. If you choose to watch an MTB marathon race, where there are pros and punters like me racing, you could be there for more than an hour cheering for the first guy and the lanterne rouge. Either way, the main reason for going to spectate isn't really to find out how the race unfolds, you're better off in front of a TV set for that. You should expect to meet a bunch of like-minded people who're fun to hang out with, have a nice picnic, and generally soak up the atmosphere. You might get the odd freebie from the race caravan, you may just get a plastic bag to shelter you from the rain, but you'll end up with good memories of a day in the hills, and stories to tell of the epic ride you saw. And maybe even a glass of vin rouge to dull the ache of making your cyclist legs walk...

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Trying something new

Firstly, let me set out my stand. I'm a mountain bike racer; that's what I do. I have sometimes succumbed to the lure of the asphalt for extended periods of time, especially when I lived in Cambridgeshire, and area of the UK not renowned for its off-road riding. Equally, now that I live in London I don't get to ride offroad much, and I have to admit, the roller on the turbo trainer is looking decidedly worn these days. But variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and for the first time since I started cycling, I now live a practical distance from an evening crit league. With this in mind, I'm planning to make the most of my proximity to Crystal Palace, a place with a fearsome reputation for difficulty amongst London's roadies, to shake up my training a bit.

From my previous posts, you may already have gathered my "racer image"; how I view myself when it comes to racing bikes. It is not a view of a high-octane sports car, all fast starts and sprinting for corners. Nope, I am definitely a ragged old diesel (age being foremost in my mind as i approach my 31st anniversary...), no good at the short, hard efforts that increasingly characterise XC races, and to a slightly lesser extent even marathons. I am purely an FTP rider, make me go much above 300W and I wither pretty fast. Comparisons with other number-obsessed friends confirms this, I am reasonably competitive when it comes to FTP/Kg, but go deeper into the red and I choke; I have the classic Time Triallist profile, perhaps proof that you can take a chap out of the fens, but you can't take the fens out of the chap!

With this in mind, I reckon throwing myself into a few hour-long adrenaline smashfests is probably not a bad plan; give me an ultimatum (hit 800W now, or get dropped) and I'll be interested to see what my body can really do. Riding a bike is such a fascinating interplay of the physical and the psychological, I wonder if "out of context" and out of my usual comfort zone, I might not even surprise myself. Obviously, to make my test very scientific and double-blind, I'll not only put a piece of highly sophisticated opaque sticky-backed plastic (read electrical tape) over my bike computer, but I'll also refrain from asking other riders what their stats are during the jockeying for corners. Have to do it right, after all!

My first roadie outing is in a little under a week, as an added bonus it'd be nice to get rid of the taint that noone sees - that little number "4" on my license, but for now, I'll take a bunch of fast people to remind me how hard it feels to be at your breaking point for an hour...

Wednesday 17 April 2013

2012 with hindsight

2012 was a pretty spectacular year for cyclesport in the UK. We've seen the first British Tour winner (don't mention that he was born in Ghent, or that his dad was Australian - that's not the Brit way; see e.g. "British-born astronaut Michael Faule"...), we've seen a fantastic Olympics on home soil, for me culminating in the Hadleigh Farm mountain bike race, and we continue to see ever more people taking to their bikes for health and transportation.

Closer to home, 2012 was also a pretty memorable year in the Pedder-Fenton household. In the last 12 months, we've done more international racing in Europe than ever before, and both feel like we've taken a step forward in our racing since the season started way back in March. The first race of the year was the first round of the Southern XC series in Checkendon, on a day that reminded everyone present that March doesn't necessarily mean that spring has arrived. My first XC race of the year proved a shock to the system, and i was slightly disappointed to end up so far back, but it was great to finally get hold of my new Trek 9.9ssl that i would be racing for the season.

Obligatory March photo of new bike...
April brought our first road trip of the year with ex-AW teamie Tim Dunford. We were off to the Roc Laissagais, my first single-day Euro Marathon since Rachel and I first gave one a go, the Canary Bike Marathon in Gran Canaria in 2010. Spring still hadn't arrived in southern France, but Tim, Rachel and I made the most of the terrain, if not the weather, to do some fantastic pedalling around the Gorges du Tarn. The race itself was muddy, cold, but brightened a lot for me by getting a thumbs-up for carrying on from Christophe Bassons as he withdrew! Fearful of missing my lift back to the fromagerie where we were staying (Tim desperately wanted to get back to see the end of Paris-Roubaix, and had told me in no uncertain terms that if i didn't make it round in time, i was riding the 30km home), i found extra motivation to make it back in 57th place, depressingly over an hour behind the winner. Fellow fromagieres Will Hayter, Mike Blewitt and Collyn Ahart ( had to dash off post-race, but not before plying us with excellent stew and easter eggs. And to cap it all, Rachel managed to meet the qualification criteria for the UCI Marathon World Champs by finishing 11th. We had wine and cheese with the owners of the gite to celebrate...

The Roc Laissagais, apparently a year makes you forget, so we've already done it again since this photo was taken!
May brought the Marathon Nationals up in Selkirk on the first single-lap course ever used for this event. There was much grumbling about the course post race, but i for one thought it was excellent, and showed that things are moving in the right direction in the UK with regard to our antiquated laws on rights of way. We stayed in Innerleithen, a town which apparently comes alive on a friday night (and not in a good way), and i found myself drifting off to shouts of "leave him Jimmy, he's not worth it, he's just a ****ing ****", perhaps not ideal race prep. I got a bit carried away at the start, riding up to Andy Cockburn, before blowing spectacularly in the unexpected heat and sunshine, to finish somewhere in the late teens (results still aren't published...). Rachel decided to show off coming 2nd behind Jane Nuessli, and just ahead of a fast-finishing Verity Appleyard. Andrew and I made her wear her medal to dinner, much to the bemusement of other participants, who were heard to ask each other if they should have got one too...

Podium fondle from Jane Nuessli.

June was spent discovering how much more i could hurt myself outdoors, spending the lighter evenings doing my training sessions around the dizzying inner circle in Regents Park, and catching up with old friends and making new ones (a memorable weekend in Shropshire involved riding with old friend Hamish, and Isla Rowntree and Louise Robinson who Rachel had invited via twitter!). We also nearly drowned at a round of the Southwest XC series at the Forest of Dean, but that's another story!

Just yuck.

The last round of the Southern XC series saw me get my best ever finish in an Expert race in 5th place, and Rachel win the Elite series overall. The rain apparently fell lightly on the course, just to ensure that no XC race in the UK was totally dry for us.

July was all about the Transalp for me and partner Nick Herlihy. We headed off to Oberammergau via Munich to start the race, and were met with three straight days of rain and cold, including a climb over 2800m as light snow fell. And yet somehow, the sun coming out and the route getting harder still didn't put us off, although i have to admit things did look a little grim when Nick ended up in the medical tent at the end of stage 6. Only a bog trot through a muggy swamp, a night in a car park and a thunderstorm at 2000m lay between us and the finish at Riva del Garda, where we celebrated our survival with ice cream and new (and not so new) friends before heading back to the real world. Poor Nick started his new job as a physio unable to work due to severe pain in his hip from a crash, and i went back to climbing the five flights of stairs in my building looking even more like an octogenarian.

Proper mountains. Unfamiliar territory...
August came, Rachel and I managed to reclaim the title of Big Dog Mixed Pairs champions, although i felt rather bad for the pairs in 2nd and 3rd (and for my own legs) after i ended up doing 6 laps to Rachel's 2. We made more new friends in the form of Crispin Doyle & Anna Cipullo, and watched with pride as our fellow AW racers Simon Ernest & Steve James stood on the top step of the men's pairs after a tense battle for supremacy. And we got to meet little Jenson.

Concentrating a bit too much on the champagne pop...
Later in the month, more euro galavanting, this time to the outrageously expensive ski resort of Verbier for the start of the Grand Raid Cristalp. In a premonition of the early 2013 food scandal, we discovered that buying steak in the local supermarket with which to celebrate finishing the Grand Raid was ludicrously expensive. Rachel ran over to me full of excitement having found a cheaper cut of meat in another part of the chiller in the Coop, only to notice that the picture on the corner definitely wasn't of a cow... We were travelling with Timmy D again, driving down from Southampton to Verbier being a serious mission, and one which Tim took on with aplomb and enthusiasm, arriving two days after we set off in a beautiful apartment overshadowed by the Mont Blanc Massif. A couple of days of pedalling up to the top lifts, and it was race day. Watching Thomas Dietsch pedalling the big dog up the hill in the centre of Verbier, looking for all the world like he was going for a sunday ride was a little deflating to both me and Tim, and we both resigned ourselves to the reality of starting in the wee fella. Lame. 8.5hrs later, we were both done and waiting for Rachel who was fertilising the alpine meadows having had a heat-induced dicky tummy, but reassuringly the Dunford-Pedder 50 minutes was still very much in action.

I even had time to think "this is amazing" during the race...
The year finished with the Kielder 100, a good season closer, always a fab event, and this year a week later than previously to try to reduce the blood loss of competitors to the swarming clouds of biting insects. Poor Tim must have been getting quite sick of us by this point, but thankfully had Ben Thomas and Andy Cockburn to dilute Team Penton to manageable levels. The September chill reminded us all that it's grim up north and that winter would soon be with us. Race day was pleasant, to the relief of everyone who raced in 2012, it was Tim's turn to show off, winning the sturdy block of oak for his trouble, and then Rachel decided to make me feel like a total failure by winning the 50mile event outright, beating all the guys too. I was 13th, and you guessed it, 45m down on Tim...

So that was it. A year of racing. Too much money spent. Too little training done. Many many wonderful memories of beautiful places with good folk. Funny that we should be doing it all again in 2013...

Marathon Racing in the UK - a history.

Marathon Racing in the UK

The UK has something of a chequered history when it comes to the racing of pedal cycles. In fact, that's a pretty unfair description, for every black square on the chequer board, there's a more upbeat, optimistic white one, whereas I'm afraid to say that in this small island state, we are pretty backward in our attitudes and always have been.

History of racing in general

When the continental bike racing scene was approaching the first of its high water marks in the 1940s and 1950s, a bitter war was being fought out between the police & legal system, and two equally dogmatic, equally confused governing bodies for cycling within the UK. The National Cycling Union were against the idea of mass-start racing on the roads, on the grounds that it would disrupt traffic and give cyclists a bad name, resulting in a ban on cycling in general. As a result they organised early morning, solo competitions against the watch in which cyclists attempted to be as inconspicuous as possible, which is where the modern British obsession with time trialling may have come from (although inconspicuousness is obviously not high on the agenda these days, day-glow skinsuits a-go go!). Their nemesis was the British League of Racing Cyclists, a group more dedicated to the debonair, continental approach to racing with mass starts, and supporting crowds. The BLRC were cast much more as the dandies of the sport, although this may be unfair, what is certainly true is that they had a more "relaxed" attitude to the legality of their racing.

History of racing off road
Racing offroad also has a curious past in the UK. The earliest race that took place predominantly offroad that i am aware of (and this may be more my ignorance of history) was the Three Peaks Cyclocross, now in its 50th year. In 1985, the pre-existing competition "Man vs Horse"was expanded to include mountain bikers, and four year's later one of the prodigal sons of British MTB racing, Tim Gould, took the first win for two wheels over a hilly 22mile course. Mountain bike racing more generally came to the fore in the late-1980s and early 90s, with courses only being constrained by landowner's permissions.

Tim Gould - first winner of Man v Bike v Horse

In the late 1990s, it was discovered that in fact, the legal framework around public rights of way, particularly bridleways, was problematic for bikes. Since 1968, cyclists have had the right to use bridleways alongside pedestrians and horse riders, but despite it being possible to run a horse race or a running race on a bridleway, or indeed a running race on a footpath, racing of bikes is explicitly banned under the rights of access laws. The country is criss-crossed by bridleways, and since they cannot be closed or reclassified, it is therefore not possible to set a course for a race in the UK that crosses a bridleway (unless the trick of using a "non-competitive zone" within the race is used - declaring a section of the race course as neutralised). This is no great problem for XCO races which are run on courses that are 4-12km in length, and likewise it's also possible to hold lapped "enduro"style races on similar courses with no legal problems.

Problems DO arise however for longer-distance point-to-point or single-loop XCM races, of the sort that are ubiquitous in Europe and the US. These require an enormous amount of care to set up within the confines of the law in the UK, and a great deal more time and effort than most race organisers have to lavish on them - consequently they have all but died out. The only notable exceptions which survive are the Kielder 100 and the Selkirk MTB Marathon, the former because of the care of the organisers, and the latter because of the introduction of right to roam in Scotland, and the resultant abolition of bridleways altogether north of the border. For many years, British Cycling have had to apply to the UCI for special dispensation to have a national marathon championships that consisted of between 4 and 8 laps of an XC-style course, such has been the lack of enthusiasm for trying to grow something bigger.

K100 Race Start 2012 - can you spot me?

With the growth of interest in marathon racing in the UK and in Europe, it is clear that there must be a change of heart in government to rectify the rather peculiar and egregious situation in which we find ourselves as XCM racers in the UK. Personally, i'm a great believer in treating people like adults. From cycle-commuting in London, to riding my bike in remote forests in Scotland, i have always found that a division of trail users leads to a sense of entitlement amongst some that can be truly divisive. If instead we give people responsibility and ask them to behave sensibly, the vast majority will,and those who do not will not be sensible anyway. So to me, the obvious way forward would be to remove the seemingly arbitrary restrictions on where we can walk and ride, and bring right to roam south of the border too. Maybe this will lead to a dystopian and conflict-riddled future, but somehow i doubt it!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Calculated Risks

Of all the forms of cyclesport that exist out there, there’s a good argument to be made for mountain biking, and particularly mtb racing being the one that depends most on its practitioners to be able to take calculated risks. In a mountain bike race, there are so many variables we as riders are in control of, and which we must make decisions about. Someone’s riding with you, do you pedal harder up the hills to try to drop them, do you take faster but dodgier lines on the descents to shed them, or do you rely on your sprint to dispatch them at the finish. Like Jason Bourne, we have to make a decision based as much on impulse and instinct as racecraft, and after a few races, we all become capable of making a split-second call on what to do.

The crucial word in what i’ve written above is “calculated”. Mountain bikers are viewed as reckless by roadies - we crash, we bounce, we get back up and keep riding, surely we must be overdoing it all the time. But the truth is, if you want to race well, you have to be conservative - if you spend all your time upside down in bushes, you’ll always be too bruised or injured to race well. It’s all about knowing your limits and the dangers you face, and riding within yourself most of the time.

It therefore seems particularly sad and dispiriting that two international-level mountain bike racers have lost their lives to road traffic incidents in the last three months. I found myself genuinely shocked and distraught on hearing the news that Burry Stander had been killed by a taxi in South Africa. He was a young man in his prime that i remember as a youthful, vibrant 18-year old racing at the very front of an NPS race in Thetford forest during an unusually warm April day in 2007. He had since risen to become an under-23 world champion, and a multiple national champ and world cup winner, arguably one of the very best XCO and XCM racers in the world. You don’t get that good by taking needless risks. It seems so deeply shocking and indescribably sad that even Burry’s incredible powers of risk minimisation (much talked about after the collision was the fact that he was super-careful when riding on the roads of SA) were not enough to keep him from harm

0.00000067. It’s a number that sticks in my head. It’s not just because i’m a mathematician by training, and a physicist by trade that i remember this particular number so clearly. It’s the numerical chance that, based on the cycling statistics for London, i will be killed or seriously injured on any given day i choose to commute to work. I can strive to reduce this number, but like Burry, there’s only so much i can do. It takes a concerted effort by politicians, city planners, road designers, automotive companies and above all drivers and the DVLA to make a significant dent in this number, a number that chases all of us who use bicycles on the road for transport or pleasure. If you haven’t already, i encourage you to sign this excellent petition;

I am the eternal optimist. I think we can all get along. I don’t see why a tonne of metal, plastic and fossil fuel should put up a barrier between human beings. i think that all it takes is a realisation that we’re all in this together - we are all entitled to our place on the roads of this crowded little island we call home, and with that great freedom comes great responsibility - to look out for one another. How hard can that really be?

Thursday 22 November 2012

Victim Blaming

What is victim blaming? It's a not very nice phenomenon in the world in which we live, and broadly takes the form of referring to the victim of criminal behaviour with the thoughtful and considerate words"they had it coming". It has been detrimental to criminalisation of minority groups the world over, women, black people, latinos, and depends crucially on the out-group status of those minorities - because they are not part of the norm in society, they are responsible for their own misfortunes. Put in this way, it is clear that victim blaming is a pretty disgusting, pretty cowardly way of dealing with social problems. I'm a man, white and i guess middle class, so beyond my bleeding heart liberalism, why does this bother me on such a personal level? One simple reason, i ride a bike to work.

Now to be clear, i'm not out to compare rape to being cut up by a taxi on Tottenham Court Road, but let's not forget that the number of cyclist deaths in London has now hit 13, and has only dipped below double figures once between 1992 and the present day (in 2004, eight people died on the roads of the capital). If being crushed beneath the wheels of a lorry is not a life-changing experience, i don't know what is. So what's got me all hot and bothered about this?

Well, it comes down to a concerted campaign by TFL, aimed squarely at cyclists. I am sure that TFL do have their hearts in the right place, and that they are trying in the most effective way available to them to reduce cyclist deaths, but their campaign just looks like a massive, publicly-funded exercise in victim-blaming.

Take these stickers:

Or this video that has been going viral on my facebook, reposted by smart cycling friends of mine who have unfortunately bought into the "i am the problem" mentality.

I'm afraid that, based on my own personal experience, the drivers of lorries bearing the TFL stickers seem to be the worst offenders, often not bothering to indicate at junctions, or worse choosing to drive at speeds totally inappropriate to the clogged conditions of central London's roads. It's almost as if they view the stickers as a catch-all excuse - a pre-emptive "sorry i didn't see you mate" in case they should carelessly wander across a junction and squeeze some poor unsuspecting cyclist into the railings. "It doesn't matter that i forgot to indicate your honour, because you see, i got a sticker on the back of my lorry".

The film is even more worrying, not for what it shows, but for what it doesn't show. How exactly did a lorry that was turning left end up straddling two lanes alongside a group of cyclists waiting at a stop line? The reality, again from my own experience, would be that the lorry driver, rather than choosing to wait in the left hand lane to turn left, would have decided to go in the right hand lane, alongside the cyclists whilst they were already stopped at red. He would have then indicated, once already stopped, and used the natural selection "i'm bigger than you, get out of my way" approach to make sure he got a clear run at his turn. If any poor cyclist failed to notice what was going on, well, they're a lot smaller than him, so does it really matter? After all, everyone knows thanks to the concerted efforts of TFL and other road safety organisations that the way cyclists get killed is by going up the inside of good, law abiding, always indicating, never speeding lorries. So really, they only had themselves to blame.

Herein lies the problem with this well-meant, and well-run campaign. It gives people who should know better an out, an excuse. You wouldn't dream of standing in front of a judge and saying "he was annoying me, so i decided to swing my chainsaw at him, and then he died" and not at least be charged with murder, but do the same with a truck (or any other vehicle for that matter), and okay, that's fine, 6 points and a £150 fine will do.

If you look at the TFL website there is good and sensible advice for both cyclists and drivers of HGVs. Unfortunately, the reality is that HGV drivers are professionals - they do it for a living, whereas very few cyclists, even including the couriers, are cycling for a living - they cycle as a means of commuting to and from work, or to get to the shops. The practical reality is therefore that cyclists are disproportionately more likely to go to the website for advice, whereas professional HGV drivers will either assume that they will have covered everything they need to know in their training (if they're new to the job) or that their many years of experience on the roads is better preparation than any crappy website!

The question we should all ask straight away when we watch that TFL video is "How the hell do we think it's a good idea to have such poorly-equipped vehicles on the roads at all? Who allowed this?!"Until that is the reaction of every person, cyclist, driver, pedestrian, whatever, then the victim-blaming will continue, and cyclists will be viewed as second class citizens...